Legislative Session Report Week 4

February 7, 2020

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The General Assembly reconvened at the Capitol on Monday for day ten of the legislative session. The legislature was in just three days this week, canceling what was supposed to be day thirteen on Thursday and the entirety of next week. They will now reconvene for day thirteen on Tuesday, February 18. Additionally, the General Assembly passed an adjournment resolution, which can be found here, setting the legislative calendar through March 12, legislative day 28. Due to the adjournment resolution and the legislature being out of session next week, the next legislative report will be sent on Friday, February 21.


While neither the House or the Senate will be in session next week, we are still looking forward to hosting our members at GFB Day at the Capitol this coming Tuesday, February 11. Guests will have the opportunity to visit the Capitol to meet with the legislators who have remained in Atlanta for appropriations hearings that will be taking place during adjournment. Governor Brian Kemp and Commissioner Gary Black will be making remarks to the group at lunch following Capitol visits.


Although it was a short week in session, a number of bills saw action this week. To read which bills are on the docket affecting Georgia agriculture, please see the Bills of Interest section.


The Senate Ag Committee met Tuesday to discuss the Right to Farm bill – HB 545. As you recall, the previous week Sen. Larry Walker introduced a substitute version, and Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) has been working intently with our allied ag groups to ensure the bill adequately accomplishes our goal of protecting farmers from undue nuisance lawsuits. We were able to make meaningful progress over the last week, and Sen. Walker incorporated many agreeable changes in the new version. The Committee discussed the changes and voted to pass the bill out of committee.


The legislative “sausage-making” can be messy as a balance of many interests is struck, and HB 545 is no exception to that. We appreciate the work Sen. Walker has put into the bill and the open dialogue he has maintained. While the bill passed out of Senate Ag was an improvement, GFB continues to advocate for a few small, but very important, changes to be made. Our most effective lobbying is done on the grassroots level. As you see your legislators at Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol and elsewhere, please be sure to mention your support of HB 545 and the following changes. We are seeking the time a farm must be in operation before being protected to be maintained at 1 year, as is current law. The proposed bill now increases this to 2 years. We also are requesting that the 5-mile distance requirement for someone to sue a farm for nuisance be reduced to a more reasonable 1-mile.


HB 545 now heads to the Senate Rules Committee, which will determine when it heads to the full Senate for a floor vote.


HB 545: Right to Farm
Reps. McCall, Burns, England, Watson, Pirkle, and Dickey
This legislation seeks to strengthen and protect farmers from loopholes in our states right to farm laws. This clarification in language helps producers by clearing up language that is vague and could be interpreted in ways detrimental to agriculture.
Passed the House on 3/7/19. Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute on 2/5/20.

HB 777: Tall Mass Timber Construction
Reps. Corbett, Burns, McCall, England, Smith, LaRiccia
This bill would allow for the Department of Community Affairs to review the 2021 International Building Code so as to consider amending the state minimum standard codes to allow tall mass timber construction types.
Assigned to Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.


HB 847: Hemp Regulation Updates
Reps. Corbett, McCall, Dickey, Pruett, and Gilliard
This update to the hemp legislation that was passed last legislative session makes technical adjustments to comply with federal rules, creates a new license for a hemp nursery grower allowing sale to another permittee, increases the processor permit fee from $25,000 to $100,000, and establishes a sampling test requirement prior to harvest.
Assigned to the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.


HB 882: Tax Exemption for Food Banks
Reps. Houston, Rich, Corbett, Greene, Cheokas
This bill would eliminate the sunset period for the exemption from state and certain local sales and use taxes for the sale of food and food ingredients to qualified food banks and for the use of food and food ingredients donated to qualified nonprofit agencies. It would also expand the exemption for the use of food and food ingredients donated to qualified nonprofit agencies to include disaster relief.
Assigned to Ways and Means.


HB 886: Animal Microchips and Reporting
Reps. Welch, McCall, Knight
This bill would require veterinarians or veterinary technicians that provide treatment to animals to scan such animals' microchips and to report ownership information under certain circumstances.
Assigned to Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.


SB 338: Animal Protection
Sens. Kirkpatrick, Black, Walker, Cowsert, Anderson, Sims
This bill would require licenses for pet dealers, kennels, stables, etc., and would also allow the Commissioner to promulgate rules and regulations for animal protection.  
Assigned to Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.


SB 345: Nonprofit Food Preparation
Sens. Kirkpatrick, Tippins, Rhett, Jordan
This bill would allow nonprofits to be exempt from rules pertaining to other food service establishments, providing they have a local government permit that ensures food is safely and hygienically prepared and delivered.
Assigned to Health and Human Services.


SB 346: State Board of Veterinary Medicine
Sens. Black, Burke, Anderson, Harrell, Payne
This bill would allow for the addition of a veterinary technician to the State Board of Veterinary Medicine as well as provide a professional health program for impaired veterinarians.
Assigned to Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.


SB 358: Muscadine as State Grape
Sens. Harper, Sims, Burke, Walker, Black, Karinshak
This bill would designate the muscadine grape as the official state grape.
Assigned to Government Oversight.


SB 362: Livestock Straying
Sens. Wilkinson, Anderson, Harper, Burke, Rahman
This bill would change the fees for impounding animals and disposing of impounding animals that are running at large or straying.
Assigned to Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.



This year is a significant one in Georgia as we are positioned to elect a President and not one, but two, U.S. Senators, as well as a number of U.S. Representatives. As Election Day nears, Georgia Farm Bureau's Public Policy team will keep you up to date on what is happening in the political arena to ensure that you are prepared to make well-educated, informed decisions at the ballot box. 


Senate District 13
This past Tuesday, February 4, a special election was held in Senate District 13 to fill the seat previously held by Sen. Greg Kirk, who passed away in December following a battle with cancer. With three candidates vying for the spot, and none of the three receiving more than fifty percent of the votes, the race is headed to a runoff. Carden Summers (R) and Jim Quinn (R) will go head to head on March 3 for the seat. Senate District 13 includes parts of Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Sumter, Tift, Worth, Turner, and Wilcox counties. To see if this election impacts you, visit our Action Center to find your legislator. If it does, make sure you get to the polls on Tuesday to vote! You can find a list of polling places here.


Presidential Primary

Georgia's Presidential Primary will be held on Tuesday, March 24. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is February 24, 2020. Visit the Georgia Secretary of State's website to check your voter registration status. Other key dates related to Georgia's Presidential Primary are below.

  • February 24: Voter Registration Deadline
  • March 2: Early Voting Begins
  • March 14: Saturday Voting 
  • March 24: Georgia's Presidential Primary



Hosted by John Holcomb, Jay Stone, and Katie Duvall, "Growing On" is a new podcast produced by Georgia Farm Bureau, covering agriculture related issues and topics to help promote and advocate for Georgia agriculture as well as educate consumers about the production of food and modern farming practices.


With episodes dropping every two weeks, Public Policy staff will be reporting from the Capitol, providing a deeper look into the legislative session in a digestible, audio format. You can subscribe to the podcast and download on Apple Podcasts by clicking here or on Spotify by clicking here. Be sure to look for a new episode every other Tuesday!


HB 13: Livestock & Rodeo Sales Tax Exemption
Reps. Williams, Mathiak, McCall, Blackmon, and Jones
This bill will provide an exemption from sales tax on the entry fee or admission of non-profit livestock, horse shows, or rodeo events and exhibits. This exemption will apply to any participation fees paid for entrants and any admission paid by the public.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee.


HB 22: Telephone Cooperatives Authorization for Broadband Services
Reps. Houston, Powell, England, Watson, Corbett, and Greene
House Bill 22 is a bill that comes from a recommendation of the Rural Development Council. This bill will authorize telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates to provide broadband services to its members, as well as, apply for federal grants to provide broadband.
Assigned to House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

HB 23: EMC Authorization to Provide Broadband Services
Reps. Houston, Powell, England, Watson, Corbett, and Greene
House Bill 23 is another bill to come out of the Rural Development Council. This bill authorizes electric membership corporations (EMC) to establish or partner with another entity to provide broadband services to its members independent from its electrical services. This bill will also allow for EMCs to apply for federal grants to provide broadband.
Passed the House on 2/11/19. Assigned to Regulated Industries and Utilities.


HB 49: Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District Interbasin Transfers
Reps. Morris, Jones, Tanner, Lumsden, Powell, and Carpenter
House Bill 49 relates to water supply and water conservation plan in the Metropolitan Georgia Water Planning District to allow for certain interbasin transfers on rivers with an annual flow of at least 15 billion gallons per day at the withdrawal point.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
HB 104: Boll Weevil Eradication Tax Exemption
Reps. Watson, Powell, McCall, Meeks, and Pirkle
This bill would propose a constitutional amendment to provide the Boll Weevil Eradication program an ad valorem tax exemption for all of their supplies used for trapping, baiting, luring, and pesticides, as it regards to detecting and preventing the return of boll weevils.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee.


HB 105: State Income Tax Exemption for Disaster Payments
Reps. Watson, Powell, Meeks, McCall, Pirkle
In an effort to provide further relief in the wake of Hurricane Michael, this bill exempts payments from USDA as part of a disaster relief payment or program in connection to Hurricane Michael from state income tax.
Passed the House on 2/25/19. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee.
HB 286: Right to Repair
Reps. Turner, Pirkle, and Dickey
House Bill 286 is known as the Right to Repair Act. This bill would require a manufacturer to provide documents, tools, and parts that are necessary for diagnostic, maintenance, or repair services on digital electronic equipment to independent service providers.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
HB 371: Securing Animals in the Back of Motor Vehicles
Reps. Drenner, McCall, Powell, Williams, Trammell
This bill would require a person to secure or contain a live animal in the back of a motor vehicle if the vehicle is within the arc of Interstate 285 and on any portion on Interstates 20,75 or 85 or Georgia Highway 400.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

HB 455: Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority
Reps. Houston, England, McCall, Gilliard, and Stovall
This bill creates the Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority, the purpose of the authority is to manage the facilities and activities of farmers markets. The Authority will market and promote agricultural products to agribusinesses and the public in an effort to boost the state's economy.
Passed the House on 3/5/19. Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

HB 592: Surface Mining in FLPA
Reps. Meeks, Corbett, England, and Rhodes
House Bill 592 would provide for under certain circumstances for short-term mineral surface mining to not be considered a breach of FLPA. The property would remain under the covenant only if they return the property to premining condition within three years.

Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment.


HR 930: Endorse Stand4Forests Platform and its Objectives
Reps. Gilliard and Clark 
House Resolution 930 encourages the State of Georgia to endorse the Stand4Forests platform and its objectives.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.


SB 45: "Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act"
Sens. Beach, B. Jones, Mullis, Harbison, E. Jones, Sims
Senate Bill 45 would provide for pari-mutuel horse racing in the state at a limited number of licensed equestrian centers, create the Georgia Horse Racing Commission, and provide for the comprehensive regulation of pari-mutuel horse racing and related activities.
Assigned to Economic Development & Tourism.


SB 76: Veterinary Nurses
Reps. Black, Wilkinson, Harper, Anderson, Burke, and Karinshak
This bill has been proposed in order to change terms used by the State Board of Veterinarians. This bill would change the term veterinary technician to veterinary nurses.
Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.


SB 211: Meat Labeling
Sens. Harper, Wilkinson, Black, Anderson, Walker, Heath
This bill will prohibit the sale and advertisement of nonanimal and non-slaughtered animal flesh from being called meat.
Passed the Senate on 3/7/19. Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.


SR 84: Propose Pari-mutuel Betting on Horse Racing
Sen. Beach
Senate Resolution 84 proposes an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by law for pari-mutuel betting on horse racing and to provide for the disposition of licensing and taxation revenues from such activities.
Assigned to Economic Development and Tourism.



In late March, you will begin receiving requests to complete the 2020 Census. Georgia Farm Bureau is proud to be partnering with the Governor's Complete Count Committee to encourage our members to complete the census in a timely manner. The 2020 Census will be the first year you can fill out your census online.


The census website is safe, secure and confidential. The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.


In addition to shaping legislative districts, the census dictates how key funds are distributed. The federal government distributes over $675 billion dollars to states based on the population for healthcare, food, education, and roads. Key programs using census data to drive funding include:

  • Federal Medical Assistance Programs (FMAP)
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Medicare Part B
  • Highway Planning and Construction
  • The Federal Pell Grant Program
  • Cooperative Extension Service


Georgia’s rural assistance programs received more than $1.4 billion annually in the federal FY 2016.


Census Dates to Remember:

  • March 2020: The Census Bureau will begin mailing invitations to participate in the 2020 Census to homes. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.
  • April 1, 2020: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. When you respond to the census, you tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.
  • April 2020: Census takers begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.
  • May 2020: The Census Bureau begins visiting homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to make sure everyone is counted.
  • August 2020: The online form of the Census will close.
  • December 2020: The Census Bureau delivers apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.
  • March 31, 2021: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.


  • February 11: Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol
  • March 2: PB&J Day at the Capitol
  • March 2-5: GFB YF&R Trip to Washington
  • March 4-5: GFB Commodity Advisory Committee Spring Meetings, Macon
  • March 11: Steak Biscuit Day at the Capitol
  • March 24: Georgia's Presidential Primary
  • March 31-April 2: GFB Presidents' Trip to Washington
  • April 2-4: Georgia Cattlemen's Convention, Perry



Public Policy Department Staff

Jeffrey Harvey, Director
Joe McManus, Assistant Director
Alex Bradford, State Affairs Coordinator
Raynor Churchwell, Agricultural Programs Specialist
Tripp Cofield, National Policy Counsel
Katie Duvall, Advocacy and Policy Development Coordinator
Renee Jones, Office Coordinator
Blake Raulerson, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist



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